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Quarterly Letter from the President

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

A gallery of recent event photos:

Fearless Young Iranian Women Uprise

AAFSW started the new year with a call for change for a better world in Iran. For the first program of the year at the Burns Auditorium, Sheila Switzer’s guest speakers gave a voice to the Fearless Young Women of Iran because no women should perish under the Mandatory Hijab Law in Iran. 

Read more: “Fearless Young Iranian Women Uprise”

Annual Valentine’s Gala

On February 9, 2023, AAFSW celebrated a favorite event at the Residence of the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in Washington, DC: AAFSW’s annual Saint Valentine’s gala dinner with a purpose. The evening proceeds supported AAFSW’s Crisis Fund and International Network of Hearts (INH). INH, at the US-Mexican border, provides shelter and education to survivors of human trafficking because no children should be the victims of human trafficking anywhere, at any time. 

Read more: Event Recap: Valentine’s Day Gala 2023

AAFSW International Women’s Month Celebration

On March 3, 2023, AAFSW celebrated International Women’s Month and all women and girls’ contributions, innovations, and achievements to improve the world. Women’s advances across geographies and economic and political sectors are astonishing. U.S. State Department General Director, Ambassador Bernicat, Ambassador Bessassi of the Republic of Tunisia, and Ambassador Mankhunt of the Republic of Armenia shared their story and legacy at the Dean Acheson auditorium with over two hundred guests from over thirty countries and representatives of their diplomatic corps.

Nowruz Holiday Reception

In collaboration with the Embassies of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye and Uzbekistan

A photo of AAFSW’s Nowruz event.

On March 21st, 2023, to mark Nowruz, the first day of Spring celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on March 21st, AAFSW was very honored to celebrate Nowruz on March 21st, 2023, with some of the world’s most ancient nations, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye, and Uzbekistan. Their ambassadors shared and showcased these nations’ proud cultural heritage at the Burns Auditorium in Washington, DC. In addition, the diplomatic members of these Embassies celebrated with the principal leadership of the U.S. government, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (video speech), U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Rebecca Zimmerman, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Anjali Kaur, AAFSW and over 200 hundred guests, the talents and rich culture of their people and countries, who have over the centuries created and developed this rich heritage, encompassing the impact of ancient trade caravans and the Silk road. 

Read more: Nowruz Recap

AAFSW and Advocacy

AAFSW supports our Foreign and Civil Service employees, spouses, partners, household members, and retirees inclusively, always, and with no exceptions made towards our most vulnerable community members through scholarships for Foreign Service children, advocacy, and the establishment of the Family Crisis Fund in 2015, among other programs. 

The Civil Service Federal Employee Serving Overseas Pay Equity Act

In pursuing this mission and moving forward, AAFSW supports The Civil Service Federal Employee Serving Overseas Pay Equity Act, establishing a locality pay equivalent for some 265 active civilian federal employees, mostly State Department employees, working under the Domestic Employees Teleworking Overseas (DETO) program. 

The State Department’s data shows that a “significant share” of adult family members are DETOs. It is growing across the broad spectrum of all embassies globally. This year’s NDAA has serious potential to improve the lives of so many federal employees, especially for our community at post overseas. It’s all about ensuring that diplomatic spouses and dependents are not penalized for serving the United States alongside their family members in the Foreign Service. A more straightforward pathway to becoming a DETO reduces the instances where Foreign Service families are separated because of work and will allow the State Department and other federal agencies to tap into a broader talent pool. The better the family feels, the better the job will be done. That’s why it’s essential to support these kinds of initiatives. With this new legislation, there will be fewer missed opportunities because there will be more adult working family members. 

Read more: Hundreds of federal employees teleworking overseas set to receive pay bump under NDAA | Federal News Network

The Balancing Act Policy Proposals to Retain a Diverse and Agile Workforce

Foreign Service spouses are still an untapped talent pool for the government, even though private-sector employers are recruiting them for telework-friendly jobs. AAFSW, for more than 30 years, has shined a spotlight on the talents of Foreign Service spouses who are committed to ambitious projects, even when they are currently out of the labor market. For example, the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad typically showcases Foreign Service family members who make volunteer work a full-time focus but are not formally employed.

The SOSA awards showcase the entrepreneurial mindset of Foreign Service family members and a commitment to public service. The State Department’s data shows that the private sector is already tapping into this talent pool rather than the government. With so many talents at post ready to work, it is time to embrace the workplace’s digital transformation and teleworking. 

AAFSW will help support Foreign Service family life by building a consensus among DoS organizations and G-CLO. In the coming months, AAFSW will advocate along some very committed Foreign Service Officers and EFMs’ The Balancing Act”. This policy proposal intends to set up a continual status for EFMs, allowing them to easily slot into temporary gaps – including FS gaps – like the Reemployed Annuitant (WAE) Program or REA/WAE status. AAFSW will support The Balancing Act effort when reaching out to DOS leadership about these changes and is integrating proposals in the list of reforms. 

The United States Foreign Service Commemorative Coin Act

AAFSW backs the Congressional support for a Commemorative Coin recognizing the upcoming 100th anniversary of the USFS in 2024 and the importance of diplomacy to the national interest. The Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training (ADST) is “taking the lead through a Congressional Relations consultant and doing the meetings on the Hill and lobbying for the needed 290 cosponsors in the House and 67 in the Senate”. 

Here is a  list of Foreign Service non-profit organizations that support the Foreign Service/Diplomacy Commemorative Coin bill (2025):

  1. Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training (ADST), POC Susan R Johnson, President
  2. American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), POC Ambassador Eric Rubin, President
  3. American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD), POC Ambassador Ron Neumann, President
  4. Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW), POC Celine Erickson, President
  5. Association of Black American Ambassadors (ABAA), POC Ambassador Steve McGann, President 
  6. DACOR (an association of Foreign Affairs professionals), POC John Bradshaw, Executive Director
  7. Diplomacy Center Foundation (DCF), POC Ambassador Popadiuk
  8. Public Diplomacy Council of America (PDCA), POC Michael Korff
  9. Senior Seminar Alumni Association (SSAA), POC Mike Lekson, President
  10. USAID Alumni Association (UAA), POC Jim Bever

As inclusion on the list means only political, advisory, or other support that our organization may be willing and able to give, please support this initiative.

Thank you!

Read more: Van Hollen, Sullivan Make Bipartisan Push to Create Commemorative Coin for 100th Anniversary of the U.S. Foreign Service | U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland (senate.gov)

AAFSW gratefully acknowledges the continuous and generous support of our members and friends.

Best Wishes,

Celine C. Erickson, President – AAFSW